chapter  5
28 Pages

The Implications of Impression Management for Personality Research in Organizations

ByD. Brent Smith, Chet Robie

The study of individual differences in personality has a long history in the fields of industrial-organizational psychology and organizational behavior. However, this history can best be described as somewhat peculiar. Although personality has been implicated as a factor in employee motivation, absenteeism, leadership, job performance variability, goal setting, and organizational climate (see Hogan, 1991), persistent critics over the past several decades have questioned the importance, meaning, and measurement of personality constructs (e.g., Davis-Blake & Pfeffer, 1989; Mischel, 1968). Many of these criticisms now appear resolved as demonstrated by the proliferation of research on the dispositional antecedents of various work-related behaviors. However, one particularly pernicious critique has remained and experienced some reinvigoration following the renewed interest in personality applications. Unlike other concerns, this particular critique does not question the importance of personality constructs per se; rather, it is a denunciation of the methods of measurement we employ to identify a person’s traits, primarily self-report questionnaires, and casts doubt on the basic assumption that responses to self-report personality questionnaires are veridical. Rather, these critics suggest that self-report measures of personality are infused with distortions based on a person’s perception of the desirability of various response options. In short, rather than being veridical reports, some (currently unknown) percentage of respondents may actively attempt to manage impressions and misrepresent their true personalities.